Apr 212017
 
 April 21, 2017  Book Reviews No Responses »

Do you have a child that loves animals? Or are you looking for a way to spark an older child’s interest in biology? Here are some of our favorite animal books. They are fun, beautifully illustrated, and guaranteed to encourage a love of all creatures great and small.

Our favorite fun animal books that children will love

I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Fun Animal Books Your Kids Will Go Crazy For

Stack the Cats is one of those books that’s almost too adorable to be real! These cats will win your heart from the get-go, especially since they are actually teaching your toddler early math skills! Why do the cats stack themselves? No idea, but then, who understands why cats do anything they do? All I know is that my little girls loves them, and their antics are helping her learn very early concepts like more and fewer, number recognition, and grouping. Oh, and did I mention how CUTE they are?? One of my favorite animal books for very young readers.

My toddler absolutely loves animals! She is becoming quite proficient at the baby signs for animals and loves to “chat” with me about the dogs, cats, and birds we spy as we go about our day. So when I first showed her Barnyard Boogie!, which is full of all kinds of animals she recognizes, I honestly thought she was going to pass out from excitement! She kept exclaiming and pointing at the pages, and her little hands could hardly keep up as she tried to do all of the animal signs at once. Barnyard Boogie! is such a fun book to read with toddlers because they are naturally drawn to animals and will love all the silly sounds and rhymes. My preschooler loves it too because it is a funny story about a cow trying to figure out what part he can play in the barnyard band. It’s not just for fun, though – it also has a sweet message about everyone having an important role to play.

Here is one that has been added to our bedtime story rotation. My preschooler thinks this book is HILARIOUS! There is quite a bit of suspense in The Giant Jumperee, as one by one the animals try to figure out who the Giant Jumperee is – but each in turn becomes too frightened and runs off! Until the Mama Frog comes along, that is. (Of course it is a mom who decides enough is enough!) My seven year old even looked up from his book and kept asking, “But what is a jumperee? What is it??” And as you can imagine, the answer is surprising and funny, and no matter how many times we read the book, it never fails to delight my preschooler. Really fun book with lovely illustrations, just what you’d expect from this powerhouse team – bestselling author of Room on the Broom and award-winning illustrator of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

So Many Feet is a beautifully illustrated book that focuses on animal feet as a way to introduce some of the many creatures in nature. This book is great if you want to give your children a little more realistic view of animals but still keep it fun. I love that it can be read at two levels, depending on the age and interest of your child. Often I read it through quickly with my toddler – just reading the primary text (“High feet, slow feet, fast feet, snow feet…”) – but spend more time going through the book with my preschooler, who is interested in the secondary text as well, which gives additional information about each animal and how its unique feet help it. It is a lovely book that they also enjoy flipping through on their own, just to look at the pictures.

Speaking of amazing illustrations, Deep in the Forest: A Seek-and-Find Adventure is a stunning collection of seek-and-find scenes featuring jungle animals. As we follow the animals through their day, the reader is invited to find them on the page, including one in each scene who is hiding behind a flap, cleverly disguised on the page. The book contains drawings of over 50 animals and is a gorgeous introduction to the creatures of the jungle.

Ocean (Topsy Turvy World) is a whimsical look at creatures of the deep. It mixes fact and fiction for a wild journey through ocean habitats. The illustrations are incredible and just a bit off-kilter, encouraging children to use their imaginations at the same time as they are learning facts about ocean creatures. A really fun book to read, plus I love the extension activities included at the book.

What are your favorite animal books for kids?

Apr 192017
 
 April 19, 2017  Book Reviews, Geography 2 Responses »

One of the joys of reading with my children is of connecting them with great literature. Happily, you don’t have to wait until they are in high school to introduce them to classic stories from the distant past. Today you can find wonderful picture books of ancient tales designed for young readers. Here are some of our favorites:

Ancient Tales for Young Readers | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of several of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Ancient Tales for Young Readers

Of course I have to start with the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the first great works of literature. This epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia dates from the early 3rd century BC and is a staple of high school world literature classes (or at least it was in mine!) But this is no dry tale that is foisted upon hapless students by cruel teachers, it is actually a really fascinating story that instantly drew in my kids. I highly recommend the picture book trilogy Gilgamesh the King by Ludmila Zeman. This series beautifully retells this epic story in a format that young children can easily understand and appreciate. She glosses over some of the more “adult” aspects of the original to create a kid-friendly version of these ancient tales that is nevertheless faithful to the spirit of the classic text. There are battles and quests, mystery, friendship, and romance. Really, what’s not to love?

This wonderful new series is inspired by the classic epic poem by Ferdowsi, the Shahnameh (Book of Kings). The first installment, The Story of Zal & Simorgh, tells of Zal, born with hair and skin as white as snow. His unusual appearance frightened his father so much that he abandoned the baby at the foot of a mountain. Yet Zal is saved by a mythical creature, a magical bird called Simorgh who raises the boy into manhood. Yet Zal is grown and encounters his father again, can he choose love over bitterness and forgive the man who left him to die? This is a wonderful story that touches on classic themes of love, friendship, and forgiveness. The story is engaging for younger readers, and the illustrations are beautiful! I love the attention given to details of the historical and cultural elements. One of my favorite spreads shows court musicians playing traditional Persian instruments. Such a beautiful tribute to this rich cultural heritage!

I am so excited that these stories from Shahnameh are now available for young readers. It is not well known in the West, and what copies are available are really too dense for children. When we studied ancient Iran earlier this year, I checked out a copy of the original Shahnameh and found it really was too difficult for my elementary aged son. That is why I jumped at the chance to review Shahnameh For Kids – The Story of Zal & Simorgh and am excited that they now have a Kickstarter to publish the 2nd and 3rd books in the series – it’s an all or nothing campaign that ends in just a few weeks, so don’t miss the chance to help make it happen!

Related Post: Folktales from Iran

The Monkey King: A Classic Chinese Tale for Children is a wonderfully fun story inspired by Chinese legends about the trickster Monkey. Long ago, the Jade King sent a pure-hearted monk on a journey to bring back the teachings of Buddha from India, in order to bring peace and order to the kingdom. This book is about the beginnings of this epic journey, and how helpers were recruited along the way, including Monkey. It seems that every step of the way the monk is set upon by enemies, but when they find out that he is on a mission for the Jade King, they have a change of heart and want to help him. As it turns out, the often short-tempered Jade King has condemned them to their current fates because of having offended him. They realize that if they help the monk, they may gain the King’s favor again and so return to their former lives.

This story has plenty of twists and turns, with battle scenes and narrow escapes and a cast of colorful characters. But I could just get lost in the lush illustrations. They are so beautiful and full of life that each page invites you to fall into it head first. This is one you will treasure on your bookshelf.

If you want to introduce your children to Greek mythology or get them excited about poetry, I highly recommend Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths. Each poem retells one of the Greek myths as a “reverso” poem, meaning it can be read the same forwards and backwards. The poems are so cleverly written, as each half of the poem gives emphasis to different words, often changing the mean of each line completely. Children who are starting to learn these ancient tales will enjoy seeing them captured in this format, and it is also a great way to spark their own creativity about poetry.

Apr 052017
 

Learning to navigate your emotions and those of others is an important set of skills for children to develop. This “emotional intelligence” is just as critical to future success and happiness as learning the multiplication tables and state capitals, perhaps more so. Children who are able to identify their feelings and work with them will be healthier, more balanced individuals who can empathize with others and connect with them in meaningful ways. Here are some tips for how you can help your children develop emotional intelligence.

Tips for parents to teach emotional intelligence

I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Emotional Intelligence: Tips for Parents

1. Name that Emotion

The building block of emotional intelligence is the ability to identify emotions. Teaching this skill can begin very early, as babies learn to read and mimic expressions. I love board books like Making Faces: A First Book of Emotions:

My toddler loves flipping through the pages of this sweet, simple book to see the photos of the baby faces. The book explores six basic emotions by showing one enlarged photo of a baby whose expression reflects that emotion then asking the reader to find that face again on a page of various smaller photos. Books like this are great because they capitalize on babies’ fascination with looking at other babies. My daughter loves to stare at the baby faces and often mimics their expressions, trying out the emotions for herself.

My little girl loves her new book Making Faces from @abramskids! Babies and toddlers love looking at faces, and this sturdy board book makes good use of that to teach little ones about emotions by showing them pictures of other children that are angry, happy, surprised, etc. The mirror at the end is an especially big hit! Great book to keep very young readers entertained and learning. Visit @annofdoodlesandjots for another #picturebookoftheday recommendation! . . . #mkbkids #kbn #momsoninstagram #kidbloggersofig #kidlit #books #booksforchildren #homeschooling #kbnhs #ig_motherhood #childhoodunplugged #motherhoodunplugged #picturebook #boardbook #ece #mytinymoments #ourcandidlife #playmatters #instagood #instakids #learningthroughplay #love #kbnmoms

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As children get older, the naming process can become more sophisticated, as children learn to identify more nuanced emotions. For example, in the lovely Today I Feel . . .: An Alphabet of Feelings we find I is for Invisible, O is for Original, and R is for Relaxed.

This is a book my preschooler often requests at bedtime. Again, the book makes use of an interest at this age (learning ABCs) to talk about emotions. In Today I Feel…, each letter/emotion pair is accompanied by an illustration, so it is easy to spark a conversation: “Why do you think he feels invisible? What’s your favorite way to relax?”

2. Check Your Judgment at the Door

Sometimes it’s hard to feel empathetic with a little one and their big emotions, if their problems seem, well, small to you. Why is your child throwing a tantrum over which color cup he can use or who gets to push the button on the elevator? Don’t they know there are bigger problems, like paying bills or dealing with global warming??

Yet remember that to them their problems are very real and very big, and only when we treat their feelings respectfully can we help our children grapple with their emotions. When we respond with respect, we open up a safe place where children feel comfortable sharing their feelings with us. One picture book that does a great job of this is Dad and the Dinosaur:

This beautifully illustrated book does not belittle the very real fears that children have about what might lurk in the shadows or under manhole covers. Instead, it introduces coping mechanisms to help calm those fears, like having a comfort toy or confiding in a trusted adult. The boy in the story is able to face his greatest fears because of his toy dinosaur, which is not afraid of anything. When the dinosaur goes missing, however, the boy’s fears become overwhelming. I have to mention that while I love that the father in this book takes his son’s fears seriously and sets out to help him find the dinosaur, I wish that he had also taught the boy that he didn’t need the dinosaur for courage but that he had the courage he needed inside himself all along.

3. Give Them Tools

All too often we find ourselves in the position of reacting to behaviors that are the end results of an emotional process, when the emotions are already too big to be easily dealt with. Try to get ahead of this during calm times, by helping kids gain the tools they’ll need to head off emotional explosions before they reach the boiling point. Teach them strategies like taking a deep breath, talking it out, and running out their energy to help them manage their emotions. One book that does an excellent job of teaching kids how to deal with anger is The tiger in my chest:

I mean, what a great metaphor for feeling angry! First it talks through how it feels to be angry as the tiger in their chest grows bigger and bigger. Then teaches kids that tigers can be tamed and that they can be tiger tamers – brilliant! My kids really love this book, and we’ve started implementing its suggestions for calming down body and mind. This book really breaks everything down into terms that children can easily understand and put into practice right away. I also love the emphasis on learning to accept, forgive, and move on (including forgiving ourselves).

4. Show Them the Bigger Picture

Perspective is everything, and one of the easiest ways to get out of an emotional funk is to do something to help others. Serving others not only will help children get their mind off their own problems, it helps put their troubles into perspective. However, resist the temptation to make too direct a link between others’ problems and their own, or children may become defensive or feel belittled. The point will get across, and, more importantly, their spirits will be uplifted and their horizons expanded, which in the long run will make a bigger difference in changing their perspective.

If you have tweens or teens, I really recommend the wonderfully creative book Hot Air (Kindle edition). (Visit One Voice Press for the paperback version).

Bored and frustrated with living with her alcoholic mother, twelve year old Annie decides to make a grand escape – by building a hot air balloon (the perfect metaphor for anyone who has wanted to escape from their troubles)! This magical adventure takes Annie across the world, making new friends at every stop. As she visits distant lands, she finds her own strength to help others and in the process sees her own life through new eyes. I love how multi-dimensional the main character is – we see her immaturity and naivety as she begins her journey, but we also see her selflessness and courage as she chooses again and again to help those in need. A wonderful book about leaving your comfort zone to serve others and gain a new perspective.

5. Model Emotional Intelligence

Finally, remember that actions speak louder than words, and your children will learn more from watching your behavior than they will from anything you say. Take time to check in with your emotions and use the same tools you recommend for your kids. Taking several deep breaths has helped me on many occasions! And being honest with your kids when you make mistakes and apologizing if you blow your top also go a long way to helping them learn to be gentle with themselves. Kids really respond if they feel you are all in it together!

What are your tips for teaching emotional intelligence?

Mar 282017
 

As we teach our children about strong women in history, one who stands out is Lena Horne. Her immense talent was matched only by her determination in the face of the racism of her times. I first learned about her from her appearance on The Cosby Show when I was a child and I was captivated by her graceful presence and that amazing voice. So I’m thrilled to introduce a new children’s biography about her which has already received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly. I’m honored to share below an essay by the author, Carole Boston Weatherford, in which she reflects on why she brought Ms. Horne’s story to life in her new book.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Author Carole Boston Weatherford reflects on the life of Lena Horne and her new biography of this legendary figure

The Legendary Lena Horne: Reflections from Carole Boston Weatherford

Often an historical figure who makes cameo appearance in one book will later warrant a book of her own. Such was the case with entertainer and activist Lena Horne. She appeared as a resident in the picture book Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood. I also devoted a poem to her in the verse novel You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen.

So it was only a matter of time before I got around to writing Ms. Horne’s biography. A collaboration with illustrator Elizabeth Zunon, The Legendary Miss Lena Horne introduces this groundbreaking entertainer and activist to a new generation.

Lena Horne lived her life in the spotlight. At age 16, she made her show business debut as a chorus girl at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club, where African Americans performed for whites-only audiences. In the 1940s. she became the first black actor with a major Hollywood studio contract.

Related Post: Biographies for Kids About Following Your Dreams

Larger Than Life: The Fierce and Fabulous Lena Horne

Refusing roles as domestics, she found herself confined to musical numbers that could be easily cut for screenings at Southern theaters whose audiences might be offended by her black sensuality. She dubbed herself “a butterfly pinned to a column.” She also appeared in all-black movies such as Stormy Weather, which produced her signature song of the same name.

Larger Than Life: The Fierce and Fabulous Lena Horne

Offstage, Ms. Horne rebelled against racism at every turn, lashing out when someone hurled a racial epithet and dropping out of a U.S.O. tour when German prisoners of war were treated better than the black soldiers in the audience. From then on, she paid her own way to perform for black troops. During World War II, she was their favorite pinup. Ironically, during the 1950s Red Scare, Ms. Horne was blacklisted for her ties to fellow entertainer and alleged Communist Paul Robeson.

In the 1960s, she took a hiatus from show business to join the Civil Rights Movement. She marched with protestors and sang at rallies. At the 1963 March on Washington, she took her turn at the podium and uttered one word: “Freedom!”
Even in her later years, she kept recording, starred in a one-woman Broadway show, played Glenda the Good Witch in the movie The Wiz, and serenaded Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street.

Larger Than Life: The Fierce and Fabulous Lena Horne

I grew up watching Ms. Horne’s guest appearances on television variety shows. Back then few blacks were on the small screen and her presence was always an inspiration, always an event. I idolized her then and I still do. For me, Lena Horne will always be larger than life—a fierce and fabulous legend.

Carole B WeatherfordCarole Boston Weatherford is a New York Times bestselling author whose 40+ books include many award winners. She is considered one of the leading poets writing for young people today. I was also proud to discover she is a long-time resident of my home state of North Carolina, where she received her MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and where she currently is a Professor of English at Fayetteville State University. You can read more about her on her website.

Mar 152017
 
 March 15, 2017  Book Reviews, STEM No Responses »

STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) is such an important part of education today, and for good reason: most careers in today’s economy are based on some aspect of STEM. And even more fundamentally, a child who can think like a scientist can apply those critical thinking skills and curiosity to any field they wish to pursue. Here are some simple ways to get kids excited about STEM at any age!

How to Get Kids Excited About STEM | Alldonemonkey.com

Related Post: STEM Fun for Kids

I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase. I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

How to Get Kids Excited About STEM

1. Keep It Fun

There are all kinds of fun ways to get kids excited about STEM – from picture books to crafts and field trips. Experiment and see what gets your kids interested! Pay attention to what they love and use that as a way to start their explorations. For example, when my oldest became fascinated with carnivorous plants, we checked out as many books as we could, did crafts, made snacks in the shape of the plants he loved, and took a trip to San Francisco to see an exhibit!

How to Get Kids Excited about STEM | Alldonemonkey.com

There are so many ways to explore. Try visiting your local science museum – they are always so fun, and will introduce your child to new topics they may not have considered. A visit will definitely get your child fired up about science!

You can also explore at home by taking an activity they enjoy and helping them experience it in new ways! Old Tracks, New Tricks is a great new book to get kids excited about STEM from an early age. You may be thinking, what does playing with trains have to do with STEM? Plenty! This is not only a fun story (what happens when a group of fun-loving train tracks are adopted into a home where the trains make everyone stick to their rules?), it is wonderful for inspiring play and learning. Through this imaginative tale, kids are invited to think outside the box and use favorite toys in new ways. Who says you can’t use your train tracks for painting or to build trees or high tower jumps? I love that this book really empowers kids to be creators by coming up with their own projects! As soon as we read this book the first time, my kids jumped up and raced to pull out the train tracks. Soon they were building and creating – and kept going all morning!

I love how the @oldtracksnewtricks book from @theinnovationpress (shown in the foreground) inspires creativity! Warning : don’t read this book with your kids unless you are prepared for hours of screen free play! My kids immediately wanted to pull out the train tracks and work on some of the “track tricks” shown in the book. Shown here is my 4 yo exercising his engineering skills to figure out how to attach Legos to the trains. #mkbkids #kbn #momsoninstagram #kidbloggersofig #sacramento #visitsacramento #mysacramento #exploresac #raisingnerds #geeknation #stem #playmatters #instagood #instakids #learningthroughplay #love #kbnmoms #childhoodunplugged #motherhoodunplugged #ig_motherhood #playtime #mytinymoments #ourcandidlife #homeschooling #kbnhs #trains

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2. Focus on Hands on Learning

Kids really get excited when you take learning out into the real world and give them projects they can do for themselves. We recently attended a Science and Engineering Night at our homeschool charter school (yes! a charter school that supports homeschoolers – we love it!). My kids loved jumping in and getting involved in so many projects, from making slime and building towers to participating in an astronaut-in-training obstacle course. What fun ways to get kids excited about STEM!

A fun way to recreate this learning at home is to use a STEM project guide like the new STEAM AHEAD! DIY for KIDS. This great activity pack includes making and building activities for kids ages 4 to 10. There is such a variety of projects included here, that you are guaranteed to find ones that you and your kids will enjoy!

From LED cards and scribbling bots to squishy circuits and bubble blowers, there is something for everyone! And note that this is STEAM, not just STEM – that extra “A” stands for Art and means that it includes craft projects that also teach science – score! Find even more resources to get kids excited about STEM on the WizKids Club website – and grab a free download – an alien doodle book!

3. Empower Them

If you loved Rosie Revere, Engineer then I know you will be just as excited as I am to learn that there is now an activity book to go along with it! Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers is a wonderful companion to the bestselling children’s book, building on the excitement it created around engineering and STEM. It includes 40+ things to invent, draw, and make. I love that it really encourages kids to use their imaginations and become inventors and creators themselves. The book also puts a big emphasis on failure as part of the engineering process. It celebrates flops and encourages kids to track their own as part of the fun of inventing. “Think about a time you failed at something and wanted to quit. Draw a picture to show how  you felt. What did you learn?”

When kids are empowered to learn from their mistakes, they feel more confident to try new things and not give up. This is especially helpful if you have a little perfectionist in your house or if you are one yourself! Worrying about getting things just right the first time can really hold them back. Make sure they know that mistakes are not only okay – they are great! Mistakes help propel the process of invention forward, so encourage your kids to be proud of what they have learned.

Related Post: Books to Teach Critical Thinking

4. Trust Them

If we want to get kids excited about STEM, we need to teach them to trust themselves and follow their curiosity. Science is all about exploration, so we have to equip them with the self-confidence to try new things – and fail. And try again. Having a growth mindset, where failure is not only okay but required, will help them develop perseverance and a belief in themselves as problem solvers. This means loosening up the reins a bit and giving them the freedom to explore, even when we know (or at least we think we know!) that something will not work. (Or that it will be messy or disgusting!)

Want to see if you can grow a bean plant in complete darkness? Let’s find out! Want to experiment with ways to grow mold on bread? Sure! Sometimes kids need to find out things for themselves, so we have to give them space to do just that.

This is one of the many reasons I love Dragons and Marshmallows (Zoey and Sassafras), the first installment in a new book series about a girl whose mother not only trusts her with a big secret (there are magical animals in the forest that need our help!) but also trusts her to take care of the animals while she is away. This is a great book to showcase the scientific method, as Zoey and her pet Sassafras carefully experiment to find out why a baby dragon is sick. I also loves that it shows a kid who is empowered to figure out a problem on her own – and ask for help when she needs it. We can’t wait to read the entire series!

5. Turn It Into an Adventure

If you know anything about the world of science for kids, you know about Bill Nye, the Science Guy! We have used his super fun YouTube videos to teach many a scientific concept, so I was really excited to see that he had co-created a new chapter book series for kids! Jack and the Geniuses: At the Bottom of the World is the first installment in an exciting new middle grade adventure series that features real-world science in a way that is engaging and accessible. Jack and his friends travel to Australia for a science competition, but when one of the scientists goes missing, they are drawn into a mystery that will have them racing to solve clues before it’s too late! I love how hands on science is woven into the story. This book also shows what actual, grown up scientists do, so kids can imagine themselves as part of the scientific world. This book is easy to read without being watered down, so it’s great for reluctant readers as well as those already curious about science. Includes additional information about the science shown in the book as well as an experiment kids can do at home or in the classroom!

What are your favorite ways to get kids excited about STEM? Share in the comments!

Mar 072017
 

There is no doubt about it: Kids love learning about community helpers! Whether they are curious about doctors, firefighters, librarians, or teachers, children are fascinated with thinking about what they might be when they grow up, plus it is a great way to get kids interested in their communities. Showing kindness to community helpers is also a wonderful way to teach kids gratitude! Here are some fabulous new picture books about community helpers, plus a huge list of learning activities!

Learning About Community Helpers | Alldonemonkey.com

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Books About Community Helpers

Related Post: Favorite Fire Truck Books

My kids and I are in love with the new Tinyville Town series from Abrams Books! They are a wonderful way to teach young readers about community helpers. The illustrations are colorful and engaging, and the text is simple and straightforward. And of course I love that the characters are so diverse!

Start off with Gets to Work! (A Tinyville Town Book), a story about a town coming together to fix a big problem! It introduces children to a range of community helpers and teaches about teamwork. It also helps children think through the stages of solving a problem, from identifying it and coming up with a solution through the various stages of carrying the idea through to completion. They will never look at a bridge the same way again!

The series also focuses on individual community helpers and so far includes I’m a Veterinarian, I’m a Firefighter, and the latest I’m a Librarian.

Each of these board books looks at a day in the life of one community helper, from when they get up in the morning to when they go to sleep at night. The simple story lines are easy for young readers to follow, and the illustrations always have a touch of gentle humor. I also love how the story lines sometimes intersect, as when the fire fighter takes his dog to the vet.

These are books my little ones love reading with me or flipping through on their own. They would be a great addition to any home or school library!

Activities About Community Helpers

Related Post: Make a Fire Safety Plan

From Simple Fun for Kids: Graphing Game

From JDaniel4’s Mom: Fire Ladder Learning Activities

From Schooling a Monkey: Vocabulary Printable

From Look! We’re Learning: Spanish Printables Pack

From Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes: Spanish Fire Safety Week Homeschool Activities

From Edventures with Kids: Fun Ways to Learn About Fire Safety

From A Dab of Glue Will Do: Write and Color the Room Printable

From I Heart Crafty Things: When I Grow Up Emergent Reader Printable

From School Time Snippets: When I Grow Up Flashcards and 3 Ways to Play

From Living Montessori Now: Montessori Activities and Printables

From JDaniel4’s Mom: Poem and Craft – Five Little Firefighters

From Fun Handprint Art: Footprint Fire Truck and Handprint Fire Thank You Cards

From Simple Fun for Kids: Emergent Reader Coloring Pages

From Castle View Academy: Interview with a Firefighter and Fire Hall Tour

From The Educators’ Spin On It: Teaching Through Role Playing (Preschool Lesson Plan)

From Empowered Educator: Doctor’s Kit Play and DIY Cardboard X-Ray Tablet

From Little Worlds: Pretend Play Hospital

From Life with Moore Babies: A-Z of Community Helpers

Feb 242017
 
 February 24, 2017  Book Reviews 2 Responses »

We all know how important it is to read to our children, yet sometimes even die-hard literacy advocates like myself get, well, bored reading the same stories every night! So if you need to shake up your story time, here are some awesome new books for preschoolers that you and your tot are sure to love!

New Books for Preschoolers | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

New Books for Preschoolers

Who could resist ABC Pasta: An Entertaining Alphabet, an incredibly creative ABC book, with all of your favorite types of pasta (plus some you haven’t heard of before!) turned into circus acts? There are angel hair acrobats and Macaroni the Magician, campanelle clowns and fettuccine fire eaters. This is a book sure to spark your child’s creativity! I asked my preschooler which pasta letter was his favorite, and he said very firmly, “This one….No, wait, this one, too. No, wait…”

Related Post: Creating a Letter of the Week Preschool Curriculum

Steppin’ Out: Jaunty Rhymes for Playful Times is a wonderful way to introduce your little one to poetry, with gentle, fun poems about topics relevant to them, like going to the beach and learning to share. The poems capture beautifully the wonder a young child experiences when exploring the world, with vivid sensory descriptions and playful use of language. And of course, kids will love the always fabulous illustrations by Tomie dePaola. A fun book to read one-on-one or in a classroom!

Life on Mars has become part of our regular rotation ever since we received it. Even my older son can’t resist looking on as the intrepid astronaut lands on Mars to search for signs of life. He has even brought a gift of chocolate cupcakes! This is a really cute, funny story whose humor is just right for this age group. And we love the twist ending! Just be aware that if your science-loving 7 year old does read with you, he may point out that, for example, Mars really should be red, not tan or gray, and that the Earth wouldn’t be quite so big in the sky from Mars, and would the astronaut really not notice that huge alien walking right behind him? Luckily, preschoolers will just enjoy the story for what it is, a light-hearted look at space exploration and the importance of persistence.

Related Post: 3 Must-Have Resources for Spanish-Speaking Preschoolers

Stuck was another instant favorite. We love Oliver Jeffers (illustrator of the wildly popular The Day the Crayons Quit), so it was wonderful to read another book with his unique sense of humor and distinctive artistic style. When Floyd’s kite is stuck in a tree, he tries everything (except what is most logical) to get it down. Will Floyd ever be reunited with his kite? (And will the tree survive having so many objects thrown into its branches?)

Alphabet books are always popular with this age group, and Oliver Jeffers has written another great ABC book. An Alphabet showcases Jeffers’ spare text and oddball sense of humor, but in an abridged version that would also be appropriate for toddlers. Many of the letters are not what you’d expect (G is for Guard, and U is for Underground), so kids will have fun trying to interpret the drawings to go with the letter of the alphabet. Fun read for kids just learning their letters!

What are your favorite books for preschoolers?

Feb 172017
 
 February 17, 2017  Book Reviews 2 Responses »

We all want our children to be creative thinkers and to let their imaginations soar. That’s why I’m so happy to share some wonderful books that encourage creativity! They help children think outside the box (literally, in some cases!) to become innovators. Be prepared for some great imaginative play and art after reading!

Our favorite books that encourage creativity

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of several of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Books that Encourage Creativity

Very young readers will enjoy Clive and His Art, a gentle story about a boy who loves all kinds of art. It is so refreshing to see a boy expresses himself so creatively, and I love his diverse group of friends. This book and its companion Clive and His Hats do a wonderful job of challenging gender stereotypes through how Clive and his friends are portrayed, for example, boys having fun with glitter or dancing around in bright costumes. Sweet board books that encourage creativity and imaginative play.

Not a Box is one of our all-time favorite books. I even love the dedication (“To children everywhere sitting in cardboard boxes”). This book celebrates that classic toy that all children love, no matter how many expensive presents we give them: the humble cardboard box. But don’t you dare call it a box to a child, because it is so much more than that to them! It is a race car, a burning building, or a robot, but certainly not a box! Really fun book and one that will inspire lots of imaginative play!

Related Post: Creative Books for Curious Kids

Take that cardboard box to a whole new level with DIY Box Creations: Fun and creative projects to make out of REALLY BIG BOXES!. Turn those leftover boxes into a fun project the whole family can enjoy! There are classics here, like a lemonade stand and a sailboat, but often with a twist, like a Minecraft fort! I love that each project is laid out so clearly, with a supply list and step-by-step instructions with pictures. Please note, these projects require adult assistance, but that is really part of the fun, as the whole family can get involved to create some wonderful memories together.

Have I mentioned before how much I LOVE the Ordinary People Change the World series? (Oh wait, I did! Ahem, twice…) They are the perfect blend of cute picture book, inspirational read, and informational biography. Come for the adorable graphics, stay for the message and story. They are a great way to introduce your children to biographies and teach them important life lessons. The new installation, I am Jim Henson, is no exception. Who doesn’t love the Muppets and Sesame Street? Learn more about their creator, who was encouraged from an early age to use his imagination. I was blown away as I read this book, realizing just how much my own childhood was influenced by Henson’s innovative programs – their silliness, creativity, and positive message. What a great example to share with our children!

Feb 152017
 
 February 15, 2017  Book Reviews, STEM 2 Responses »

Do you have a child who is interested in science and medicine? Or one that you want to encourage to pursue their dreams no matter what the obstacles? Black History Month is the perfect time to introduce them to the inspiring story of medical pioneer Vivien Thomas, who persisted despite incredible difficulties to study medicine and develop a surgical technique that has saved thousands of children’s lives. Inspire your kids with a wonderful children’s book on his life as well as suggested activities to teach your kids mor about this important figure in the history of STEM.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

History of STEM: Black Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas | Alldonemonkey.com

History of STEM: Black Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas

There is a reason that most of us have never heard of the incredible Vivien Thomas, despite the fact that he invented a surgical technique that allowed for the first successful open heart surgeries on children. Even though he is now credited with saving thousands of children’s lives, his is not a household name.

After the first operations were performed using Thomas’ technique in 1944, the procedure made national news, yet Thomas was never mentioned. The technique itself was named after the two doctors Thomas worked for, both of whom were nominated for the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine because of “their” technique.

Why? Because Vivien Thomas was black, at a time when blacks and whites used separate drinking fountains, when blacks had trouble finding housing in “nice” neighborhoods, when blacks were barred from entering all-white medical schools, and when blacks could not operate on white babies, even to save their lives.

Related Post:Biographies for Kids About Following Your Dreams

When Thomas’ life-saving technique was first used in 1944, Thomas was not allowed to perform the surgery himself, but the surgeon could not do it without Thomas’ help. Thomas had to stand on a chair behind the surgeon, giving instructions (and at one point stopping the surgeon from making a suture in the wrong direction).

Thomas’ contributions were not recognized until 1971, when his portrait was displayed at John Hopkins University. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate degree 5 years later and appointed him to the faculty. Many of the country’s top surgeons trained under Thomas and credit him with their success.

A wonderful book to introduce children to Thomas’ life, his incredible perseverance, and pioneering work is Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas. It tells of his life from his childhood, when he worked under his father, a master carpenter, to carefully save money so he could go to a nearby medical school for African Americans. It follows his crushing disappointment at losing his savings in the market crash of 1929 and his persistence in pursuing work in medicine, even if his official job title was simply “janitor.” How did someone with only a high school education develop a life-saving surgical technique that is still used today? How did Thomas overcome the racism and resistance he faced from his co-workers?

Activity

One activity we did after reading the book is based on the first operation that was performed using Thomas’ technique, when Thomas stood on a chair behind the surgeon, giving instructions.

The boys took turns standing on a chair behind the other, giving instructions on how to draw a picture. The one drawing had to follow what the other was saying, and the one giving directions was not allowed to actually touch the drawing.

Warning: They hated it! It was too frustrating to just give out instructions and not be able to draw, especially because the one drawing usually had his own ideas about what to do! The one drawing wasn’t having any fun either, since he just wanted to do his own picture.

Hopefully this activity gave them a taste of how incredibly frustrating it must have been for Thomas to watch another surgeon performing his technique, while all he could do was stand behind him and give instructions (which the surgeon would hopefully want and be able to follow).

Resources

Follow up with this amazing FREE teacher’s guide from Lee and Low!

Read more in this bio from PBS or this one from Science Heroes.

Read this article from the Baltimore Sun.

Watch this video on Thomas and the “blue babies” his technique saved:

Learn more about the heart with these online kids’ games from the Texas Heart Institute’s Project Heart.

Try your hand at performing the ground-breaking surgery in this simulation from PBS.

Black History Month Blog Hop on Multicultural Kid Blogs

Welcome to our fourth annual Black History Month series and giveaway! Follow along all month long as we explore the rich history and cultures of Africa and African-Americans. Be sure to enter our giveaway below and link up your own posts at the bottom of the page.

You can also follow our Black History board on Pinterest:


February 3
Embracing Diversity on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Afro-Latino Arturo Schomburg – The African Diaspora’s History Keeper

February 6
Embracing Diversity: Afro-Latinos and Baseball’s Color Line – 5 Pioneers in the Post-Segregation Era

February 7
Hispanic Mama: 5 Latino Dishes that Feature Our African Heritage

February 8
Mama Smiles: How to Use Stories to Teach Children Black History

February 10
Colours of Us: 21 Award-Winning Children’s Books for Black History Month

February 13
Crafty Moms Share: The Real Women Mathematicians of Hidden Figures

February 15
All Done Monkey

February 17
A Crafty Arab

February 22
Kitchen Counter Chronicles

February 24
GUBlife

Share Your Posts!


Black History Month Giveaway

Coming soon! Our annual Black History Month giveaway runs from February 3 through February 28, 2017. Winners will be drawn and notified within 48 hours. Note that some prizes have shipping restrictions. If the winner lives outside of that shipping area, that part of the prize package will go to the next prize winner. Read our full giveaway rules.

Black History Month giveaway on Multicultural Kid Blogs - Grand Prize

Grand Prize

From World of EPI: Winner’s choice of 18″ doll US Shipping Only
From Penguin Kids: I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.; I Am Rosa Parks; and I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer
From Quarto Knows: A Stork in a Baobab Tree by Catherine House: Who is King? by Beverley Naidoo; The Fire Children retold by Eric Maddern; Thank you, Jackson by Niki Daly US Shipping Only
From Bino & Fino: DVD set US Shipping Only
From RiverFrog Publishing: Bella’s Adventures in Africa by Rebecca Darko and Rutendo Muzambi

Black History Month giveaway from Multicultural Kid Blogs - 1st Prize

1st Prize

From Queens of Africa: Azeezah doll with natural hair, and clothing from SLICEbyCAKE US Shipping Only
From Penguin Kids: I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.; I Am Rosa Parks; and I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer
From Abrams: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters; Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls by Tonya Bolden; George Washington Carver by Tonya Bolden; My Uncle Martin’s Words for America by Angela Farris Watkins US Shipping Only

Black History Month giveaway on Multicultural Kid Blogs - 2nd Prize

2nd Prize

From Penguin Kids: I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.; I Am Rosa Parks; and I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer
From Candlewick Press: Jazz Day by Roxane Orgill; X: A Novel by Kekla Magoon and Ilyasah Shabazz; Voice of Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford US Shipping Only

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Feb 102017
 

Are you a globally minded parent looking for a great book to read? I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to review several top books for global families recently, and I’m so pleased to share my reviews today over on Multicultural Kid Blogs. It is a diverse collection of books, with topics ranging from intercultural relationships and raising bilingual children to how to make globally inspired baby food. You’ll also find tips for traveling with kids in Europe and the memoir of a globe-trotting mom of two as well as a collection of essays by women who have given birth abroad.

So whether you are drawn to travel, cooking, memoirs, education, or relationship how-to’s, you will find something for you! Find my full reviews over on Multicultural Kid Blogs, and let me know in the comments what books you’ve been reading lately!

Top Books for Global Families | Alldonemonkey on Multicultural Kid Blogs

Top Books for Global Families: Guest Post on Multicultural Kid Blogs

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